Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation that will reduce the crime of possession of an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction, handing a victory to marijuana advocates one month before November's state vote to legalize pot for recreational use.
The governor's signature of Senate Bill 1449 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, will not reduce actual penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under California law, misdemeanor possession of less than an ounce was already punishable as infraction - with offenders facing fines of $100.
Marijuana advocates say the governor's decision to sign the bill will significantly reduce the number of cases clogging California courts by removing the misdemeanor tag.
The law will take effect Jan. 1, meaning it may be superseded - at least for Californians over 21 - by the November legalization measure.
Schwarzenegger said he signed Leno's bill because "possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is infraction in everything but name."
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